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tv   Nightline  ABC  May 1, 2012 11:35pm-12:00am EDT

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tonight on "nightline," amazing race. incredible stories of lives saved and lives lost, inside one of the world's most respected transplant centers, meet the doctors and courageous patients all determined to beat the laws of supply and demand. twist of fate. a little boy who needs a new heart, a young woman anxious to start family and career, all waiting for the call and the little red cooler that could save their lives. so why are the people behind facebook so eager to help? and self-precedence.
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one year after the raid that killed osama bin laden, president obama goes to afghanistan and tells the world his plan. good evening. i'm bill weir. no one likes to think about the end of their life, especially standing in line down at the dmv. this may be one reason why less than half of americans check the organ donor option on their driver's license, even though 7,000 people will die this year, waiting for a transplant. but today, facebook set out to change that grim math, betting that the nudging of friends can get donor numbers up in a whole new way. after a visit to the transplant ward of the mayo clinic, we're betting this story will make you think about the gift of life in
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a whole new way. >> reporter: a surgeon scrubs, family prays, and a red cooler flies first class on a private jet bound for rochester, minnesota. it it arrives carrying a living piece of a person who signed a card or checked a box that made this flight possible. maybe it was a car accident or a long coma and a family finally letting go. what that person could not have imagined are all the other families, waiting, hoping for a precious red cooler to arrive. >> oh, bath and body works. >> reporter: penny needs a lung to keep teaching her grandkids how to ride horses. and charles who's been on the heart list for almost two years. there's little colter in
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possession of his star wars panch and his i.v. pump. and jessica, the sweeted 30-year-old from duluth. he loves her job, desperately wants to start a family, but knows both will have to wait while she waits for a heart and a liver and a return to the simplest pleasures. >> i can't burn candles in here. they smell nice and they look nice. taking a bath. i can't take a bath here. oh, i just want to take a big jacuzzi tub when i get out of here. >> maybe i could smuggle in a candle and a wash tub and distract the nurses for like an hour. [ laughter ] >> that would be fantastic. >> reporter: i'll get to work on
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that. they'll have to wait some more because this red cooler is for gordon. >> i'm going to surgery in about five minutes. >> reporter: a 60-year-old professor from the university of nebraska. he got the call over a hundred thousands americans are waiting for tonight. there's a liver. and soon they were hustling to the most important doctor's appointment of their lives. the transplant takes six hours. that vital organ that's been failing for over 15 years, replaced with the liver of an older, but healthier person. meanwhile his wife is in the waiting room, thinking about their three kids, seven grandkids and the other mystery family, mourning somewhere in america tonight. >> we benefitted from somebody that made a really generous decision. how do you thank someone for such a big gift? >> reporter: gordon's family is
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able to visit soon after surgery, and within a day, gordon is up, sitting in a chair. >> i feel really lucky that it worked out. >> reporter: and if fate smiles, there's a chance he could meet the family of the donor one of these days. for the head of the transplant, those are the moments that close the circle of loss and life. >> with transplant, we can't undo you that tragic episode, but what we can do is we can infuse some good into an otherwise tragic episode. where i see it most dramatically, and i've been doing this my whole career, and still brings tears to my eyes, is when the donor family and the recipient family get together. >> mayo doctors are so skilled that the second an organ becomes available, the patient's chances of survival jumps dramatically. most americans support the notion, but only about 40% take the steps to become a donor.
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the demand so high, the supply so low, that an average of 18 people a day die waiting. these are the numbers that inspired the executives at facebook. >> this is not a medical crisis. it's a social crisis. we have the technology. we have the ability to save and improve these patients' lives today, if enough people will be part of the solution. >> reporter: starting today, organ donor is a profile option in the facebook time line. it drives you to the proper registry and helps others to do the same with old-fashioned peer pressure. over half of americans are on facebook now. if even half of those folks sign on, it could radically reduce wait times. >> i had heard of transplant but never thought anything, like one of my kids would need one, never paid attention to it. >> reporter: jeff and patty became vividly aware of the list, the moment doctors told
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him their little boy was born without the left side of their heart. >> that was him before he went down for his transplant. >> reporter: he had his first transplant at six weeks old. while he's smaller than the other kids in class, he has all the energy of your average 9-year-old. >> this one has been in for a little over two months. >> reporter: in recent years, it became obvious that the donor heart might not last till age ten. anti-rejection drugs are taking a toll and this time he also needs a kidney. >> he gets eight different medications right now. >> reporter: so the miners, already veterans of transplant and recovery, took a deep breath and got ready to do it all over again. >> he had asked me where will the heart come from? and my kidney, where do they get it? >> i explain to him, when another child loses their life, that's where they're going to get the heart and kidney from. i think he understood it, to a
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point. >> reporter: after nine months on the top of the waiting list, colter's red cooler is set to arrive. when we come back, you'll see first hand the agony, tension, and glory of life on the list. ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ [ male announcer ] the jeep grand cherokee has won more than just respect. ♪
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we've been spending time with patients living at the mercy of the organ donor list. where a phone call can cause an ailing heart to leap or fall. we return now to the mayo clinic, where one little boy awaits the arrival of a new
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heart. it's a friday night at the mayo clinic, a different kind of exciting night out for the miner family because nine months atop the waiting list, a donor heart is about to touch down in rochester, minnesota airport. >> do you know what we're going to do tonight? >> you know why are you here. >> are you excited? do you have any questions? >> right when i got the call, i was so excited. >> is that right? are you all set? ready to go down? >> i'm always set. >> you're always set. >> that's good. he's going to be a surgeon when he grows up. >> that heart is not going to wait much longer, and i'm getting it. >> perfect. >> one, two, three. there we go. >> mayo is renowned for their team approach to medicine and the surgical teams that have been together the longest move with seamless sink ronisity.
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>> we're insising the heart now and we'll be taking it out shortly. >> reporter: if you're squeamish, avert your eyes right here. but if you're fascinating by modern medicine, watch as his failing heart is removed and keeps beating for a few minutes on the surgical table. this is hardly a novelty for the doctors. so they remain focused on the contents of the red cooler. the new heart slides in, as if it was custom-made for colter. >> it's the perfect fit here in the recipient. hello! >> a couple days later, just look at him, a pint-sized jedi ready for everything. >> that's one thing wrong with it. >> let's not talk about this. >> no, that's okay. i have an eight-year-old.
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we can bond on this. >> i love it. it's my favorite. >> you want to show him your scar? can you lift that all the way up? >> oh, my gosh. look at that. >> don't touch it. >> here's what i would do if i was you. on the playground don't just show your scar to anybody who wants to see it. charge them a quarter. >> how about i charge them $20? >> for one look at the scar? all right. >> making big money there. >> so, dad, what would you say to the family of the donor? >> thank you. >> that's about all you can say. >> sorry for their loss, but the organ didn't go to waste. it's really important to be an organ donor. otherwise, we wouldn't have him here. >> reporter: meanwhile on another wing while a hall way speaker plays the most fitting of tom petty songs -- ♪
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♪ the waiting is the hardest part ♪ ♪ jessica wrestles with the emotional toll of being at the top of the list. >> by praying for a new heart, i'm praying for another person to die. that bothers me all the time. i understand this would happen to this person regardless of whether i needed a heart or not. it isn't my fault that this person is going to die. but it's still sad, nonetheless. >> reporter: to cheer up, she sometimes takes wilson for a stroll around the hall. she named her i.v. cart after the volley ball in cast away. because after four months waiting for a heart and liver, she often feels marooned on an island of pain and worry. >> keeping me going. >> reporter: think you'll carry a certain added responsibility to live a life befitting of that gift? >> almost as if i'm living for
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two people, to know that i'm alive because someone else's heart is working for me, i don't know, it's kind of a beautiful thing. it's like the marrying of two souls. i don't know. i don't know how it works yet. i will always think of my donor, because they're going to be a part of me after this. >> rooting for you, jess. and i'll keep you posted on her status on my facebook page and on abc news.com where you can find out more about the friends saving lives initiatives. a hundred thousand people have added organ donor to their profile. a hearty thanks to the good folks at the mayo clinic, so amazing to see them work. just ahead, he snuck in under cover of darkness. i'll talk to christiane amanpour
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verizon. hola, mama. it's my mom. it has to be tough to sneak air force one anywhere, but they managed just that today as president obama made a top-secret trip to afghanistan under the cover of darkness while some republican rivals are dismissing the trip has publicly motivat motivated. he addressed the nation with another promise that the longest war is winding down. >> last year, we removed 10,000 u.s. troops from afghanistan. another 23,000 will leave by the end of the summer. after that, reductions will continue at a steady pace, with more and more of our troops coming home. as our coalition agreed, by the end of 2014, the afghans will be
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fully responsible for the security of their country. >> reporter: we're joined now from christiane amanpour. always great to have you drop by. this is a delicate dance for the president convincing americans the war is over, convincing afghans that we're not bailing. >> it's vital that the president did what he d saying there will be an american presence even after combat troops come home because that terribly dangerous vacuum after the soviets were defeated led to the taliban, led to al qaeda, and led to the 9/11 plot and all the violence afterwards. now the challenge for the president is to make sure the taliban is either defeated or there's a negotiated settlement, but that's not looking like it will bear fruit at the moment. and they have to have the safe havens in pakistan neutralized and that will take getting the relationship between the u.s. and pakistan back on track. it's broken right now.
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>> in terms of flying drone mitions, that's a big part. >> absolutely. >> do you take the taliban at their word? if they come it a peace, will it hold in 2014 when everybody leaves? >> that's a huge dilemma. the u.s. will stay in some capacity until 2024, not combat troops, but many in afghanistan do not trust the taliban. the taliban wants girls to not be able to go to school. and women will have to be in their home. there's one thing people know about the taliban, it was their terrible government and the terrible abuses they visited on women. >> the afghan soldiers seem to be taking more of a lead. how much birthday are they from five years ago? >> they're better, but not there yet. more to the point, neither the united states nor afghanistan are willing to pay for a lig
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afghan force. so already those numbers are being diminished. >> point of punctuation on that note, only three hours after the president left that war zone, there were reports of explosions in kabul, including confirmation of at least one car bomb and the taliban has already claimed credit for that attack. before we go tonight, there's great anticipation around the "nightline" office for tomorrow night's show because cynthia mcfadden is cast in the abc drama revenge, playing the historically notorious role upon cynthia mcfadden. >> reporter: over the years, i've had many important interviews. but this time, i'm playing myself. >> would you like to comment on the accusations? >> reporter: not being myself. >> i'm ready for my close-up. i've always wanted to say that. >> just for the record, did you murder tyler bearel? >> oh,

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